5 Things To Consider For Shoe Shopping

There are more brands and models of running shoes to choose from now than ever before. The huge number of possibilities, and the cost, can feel overwhelming. Here's a few tips to help you get started.

  1. Body type/motion mechanics. Your weight and arch height are factors in determining how much cushioning and stability you need in your shoes. Your arches are formed by the tarsal and metatarsal bones, anchored by ligaments and tendons. If you're not sure, the wet feet test, the type of footprint you leave with bare feet is an indicator whether you have flat, medium or high arches.
    Flat, medium and high arches.
    Those with flat feet often (but not always) tend to be over pronators, with less ability to absorb shock. Cushioning, stability, and in some cases more extreme motion control shoes can help. Those with high arches can be under pronators (supinators) resulting in decreased flexibility that can compromise shock absorption even more. I have freakishly high arches, which sometimes resulted in injuries when I competed in spikes that had almost no cushioning. The minimalist shoe and barefoot running fad is not a good option for feet like mine. 20-30% of runners have medium arches and are usually neutral pronators. These people tend to have the best luck with lighter, less cushioned shoes, but still may need some stability.
  2. Running style. For years, the importance of forefoot, midfoot and heel strikers has been greatly exaggerated. The reality is that over 95% of runners are heel strikers unless they are doing all-out sprints. Recent research has shown that it's a perfectly natural and efficient style for most runners. A more important factor for choosing shoes is weekly mileage and average pace.
  3. Surfaces. How much will you run on hard concrete in the cities and suburbs, treadmills, softer asphalt, dirt roads, rocky trails, bouncy tracks or cushy running trails? Most brands offer models made especially for trail running. More advanced runners who do fast intervals on tracks may opt to have an extra pair of lighter shoes for speed training and racing.
  4. Where to shop. Beginners or those looking to switch brands are best served by going to a local running specialty shop and try on several pairs for fit, comfort, and even a test jog. Many stores have a treadmill where a salesperson will offer a "gait analysis." Their expertise can vary widely, so you're better off making your final choice based on how the shoes feel. It's often recommended to get one size larger than your normal street shoes, and a fitting can confirm that. Shoes are getting expensive, sometimes more than $130 a pair. It's generally recommended to replace shoes about every 400 miles. If you run 40 miles a week, that's only 10 weeks. I have found a variety of models and brands (Adidas, Asics, Mizuno and Saucony) that work for me, and I rotate what I buy online based on which last season's models are available on clearance. You can sometimes save over 50% off the original price that way.
  5. Looks. It's okay to care about the colors and styles. Fashion is a perfectly legitimate factor to consider what to put on your own feet! That said, when I buy clearance shoes, I often get the colors that no one else wanted, ranging from dreary greys and blacks to offensively bright mixes of lite-brite neon colors. Fortunately I don't really mind, as I have an odd preference for colors that some consider ugly.

FTC Disclaimer: this post is not sponsored.

Tony has been a runner for over three decades, competing in cross country and track in high school and college, and road races for various clubs. He's served as team captain for several Corporate Challenge teams at YMCA of the USA, and has informally coached many friends over the years.

Tags: YMCA, Y, running shoes, shoe shopping, motion mechanics, arches, Running, Jogging

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